The news that Wout van Aert has made Jumbo-Visma's selection for the Tour de France may have come as a surprise, but the young Belgian admits that he had little choice in taking up the offer after his team made their recent proposal.
Van Aert only moved into the WorldTour this season, and this is only his first full campaign on the road as he continues to transition away from cyclo-cross. He still plans to devote the second half of his season and the coming winter to 'cross, but after impressing at the spring Classics, and again at a recent training camp, the team believed that the 24-year-old had the temperament and necessary strength to handle a Grand Tour debut.
The decision looks even bolder when considering that Van Aert has only raced 10 days this season, and that the Critérium du Dauphiné is just his first stage race of the year. Nevertheless, Jumbo-Visma's confidence in Van Aert is clear, and they made the announcement before stage 2 of the French stage race after Van Aert had taken an impressive third place on stage 1.
"This was a chance that I couldn't let go," Van Aert said after completing stage 2 of the Dauphiné.
"I didn't make my decision in just one moment. They started talking about it after the Giro when I was at an altitude camp with Steven Kruijswijk. I did the altitude camp because it was part of the plan for the young professionals at Jumbo-Visma. There they [team management] start talking. I didn't really know what to think about it all, and I asked them what they saw my role as being, and about the rest of my season.
"And as they said that after the Tour I only have to do the Prudential RideLondon Classic, and that then my road season would be over, it's even a good move for my cyclo-cross season."
Along with Kruijswijk's top-10 ambitions, the Jumbo-Visma team will concentrate on Dylan Groenewegen for the sprints. Van Aert will be tasked with being a support rider, but he'll also be expected to gain as much experience as possible. The Tour starting in Brussels is another big draw for the young Belgian.
"I'm happy to be heading to the start in Brussels," Van Aert said. "I'll be in a support role for Groenewegen and Kruijswijk, and don't have any personal goals for the Tour. When I signed for Jumbo-Visma, I thought about making next year  the year I'd do my first Grand Tour, and perhaps the Tour, so I'm a happy man."
Van Aert will also be a key ally in the all-important stage 2 team time trial, while Laurens De Plus and George Bennett will aid Kruijswijk in the mountains. Mike Teunissen and Amund Grondahl Jansen, meanwhile, are there to support Groenewegen in the sprints. Tony Martin has also been drafted in and will add valued experience and horsepower on the flats and in the time trials.
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Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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